A messy desk: a clear sign you’ve been working hard

My desk is a complete disaster.

This is a good sign.

If you spend enough time at your desk and do enough work there, your desk should be a mess.

After I’m done writing I have no energy to clean up. A sign, I worked hard that day.

I may have energy to clean before I write, but I’m so excited to write, I don’t. A sign, writing still gets me excited.

I clean it every two weeks. The desk is filled with coffee mugs, with a half-eaten bag of almonds. Little notes are strewn about – reminding me of things I should have done last week. There’s loose CD’s, pens, markers, and plates. These objects tell a story of my long days sitting here at my desk, writing.

Your desk should tell the same story.

Now I’m a big believer in organization. But an organized person doesn’t always mean a successful one. There are those who don’t write at a desk and this post may not apply. They may use a laptop, or a notebook in bed.

May I suggest you find a corner somewhere in your living quarters and make it your own? A writer’s spot is crucial.

I’ve tried that whole coffee shop thing. And that whole in the park, with the people…

It didn’t work. It’s a mindset of where you are. Why you’re there. And what you’re going to do.

In the morning, when I sit down at my desk, something clicks and my hands are ready to start typing. I enjoy decorating my writer’s corner, with accessories, with pens and markers. Unused erasers and some hand sanitizer — Little knickknacks.

Although my desk is a cluttered disaster 92% of the time, I still manage to get tons of work done. I take pride in my desk and when I’m done telling my story, through my work, the desk alone tells a story of how hard I work, day in and day out.

Always be Writing. Everyday.

-REH

Send a friend a screenwriting book

I’m not much of person who enjoys writing with others. I honestly don’t know how partners do it.

From what I’ve read, writing partnerships only work if you write separately and then send each other drafts for the other to write ALONE. This process continues until you both feel it’s complete.

THIS SOUNDS GREAT.

I would love to minimize the pressures of writing a script — and then add the joys of collaborating and creating with someone else. I’m a team player naturally. I love talking to other writers — only if they’re not in the room dictating my word.

I’m on a search to find that person I can write with.

It’s going to be hard to find someone with the same vision. But what works with writing partnerships is that your visions are combined. Both writers can offer their great stuff to make a killer script.

I’m on a mission to find that someone I can send a draft too, and in three or four weeks I’ll get another draft back better than it was before.

My plan is to send a friend a screenwriting book. I already have a few people in mind.

Of course I could find a practicing screenwriter. Or I could find a fresh mind who aspires to write, but doesn’t “practice”. It’s almost like I’m trying to discover new talent.

My list of known screenwriters is lean.

I have to know the person really well to trust their “writer’s instinct”. They have to love movies of course. They have to be good readers and number one, they have to be able to sacrifice time to write.

With these restrictions I think I have found that friend.

I’m on Amazon searching for the right book to send. I’ll send it as a gift and it’ll be on the person’s doorstep in 5 to 7 days. They won’t even see it coming.

Hopefully the book will show them how “easy” screenwriting really is (I wish). I can hope and pray that they’ll open it up, and say “I can do this” just like I did some four years ago. Then I can hope and pray they’ll go to their computer download Celtx the free script software and start writing. Before you know it, we’d be exchanging drafts, talking story, and discussing the latest hottest script on the market that we should had written.

All this by just sending a screenwriting book? It’s more than just writing. It’s a process of doing and not just saying.

I’m going to give it go. Wish me luck. Hope and pray I find my writing collaborator.

Always be Writing. Every day.

-REH.

Get back to Basics

When I was first started writing, I stumbled upon a great book that taught me the basics of screenwriting.

Today, after three years, 12+ features later, I keep that book by desk, because I know, the secret to writing a good movie is in the basics.

Watch Avatar or Titanic — both are written by James Cameron. These movies are based on the most basic plot ever written (Romeo & Juliet).  They are universal stories retold in different fashion. Both movies killed at the box office, with huge budgets and plenty of kudos to James Cameron.

He told a story and people enjoyed it. They really enjoyed it. That’s the basic reason for writing a movie, for people to enjoy it. To be moved. To be changed.

I sometimes I take that book to bed with me. After a long day, I browse it late at night under a small light. I skim through structure, good dialogue, building characters and how to rewrite. Reviewing the basics gives me confidence in writing screenplays.

Often I spend a lot of time, digging into my characters, building subtext and fine-tuning my three-act structure. Through all this I sometimes lose focus on the basics.

Like an athlete, musician, or an artist, we carry a basic skill set that got us where we our. These skills are the foundation to our talent. If that foundation is forgotten, it often leads to unsatisfying work.

Of course it takes much more than basics to be successful in this business. My point is that we often worry about things when we shouldn’t. We have to take time and rewind, go back to where we started, and remember what skills got us here in the first place. Fine tune those skills and press forward. It’s a mindset.

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH

The book: http://www.amazon.com/Teach-Yourself-Screenwriting-Third-Edition/dp/0071621008/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362066390&sr=8-1&keywords=teach+yourself+screenwriting

Moments of Fate

I’m a huge believer in fate.

I’m very superstitious. I can’t watch a Michigan Football game without knocking on the coffee table at least six times.

Throughout my life, things have happened, that I refuse to believe are JUST coincidences. Today highlighted why I continue to believe in my own destiny.

I had just finished a first draft of my latest script. It was only 80 pages long!

First of all, that’s not good. Not good at all! Your first draft should be at least 120 pages…then you cut and trim to get to that magic 96.

Anyways…

I like to print my first draft to read and make notes. I love the hard copy. There is something very special about holding finished work in your hand… clipping those pages together and taking in all the satisfaction of accomplishment.

I saved it as a PDF. I plugged in my printer — It was out of paper. Shit…

I found the last remaining pile of printer paper near my desk. Immediately, I didn’t think I had enough paper to print the measly 80 pages. 81 if I print the title page. Which I always do!

I had no choice. I loaded the paper and hit PRINT.

I sat there as my freshly inked words rolled out of the printer. I crossed my fingers and hoped I had enough.

I ran through the last week, remembering all the printing I had done: horse racing programs, my English paper, work bullshit — each and every print was a random number of pages.

Page by page, my script shot out…

It was done. I grabbed the lean script out. Grabbed a clip and neatly pushed it together. There it was. Ready for rewrites. I was joyous that I had enough paper. But curious to know if I had any paper left…

I opened the printer: To my amazement, it was empty. Not one piece left. Bare bones. Nothing. I had the perfect amount of paper left to print my script. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so bad about that lean first draft.

It was like it was supposed to be.

For some reason, for the past two months, I had printed things off the internet, for work, for school, whatever…and after all that, what paper was left, turned out to be the exact amount of paper I needed.

It was all too real. Maybe you think I’m crazy. Maybe you think, who cares?

This isn’t the first time, when my numbers have fallen so perfectly. I believe things happen for a reason. Even if they’re small like this instance. If I was only one page short or had two pages left, I would have never thought anything of it. But I had the exact amount needed. Everything I had printed before this was exactly what I was supposed to print.

And then I knew…I’m doing exactly what I supposed to be doing.

Always be writing. Everyday

-REH

Think like a politician when planning your future.

Politicians plan for the future. They think long-term.

Right now we are seeing Hilary Clinton stepping down from Secretary of State. There’s word she’s going to run for president in 2016 — Whatever she does from here on, for the next 3 years, will decide her fate. It will decide her ultimate goal.

That’s insane to me. But this is why she is where she is. Most people don’t even plan for the following week. Let alone for the next four years.

Setting long-term goals gets you where you want — Set short-term goals to reach your long-term goals. Like an elected politician, you set yourself up to win. To be elected. To succeed.

We should all be thinking long-term: Writers. Directors. Producers. Mothers. Husbands. Businessmen. Whatever…

Set long-term goals now.

For instance: I have to move to California. I have to be in Hollywood to be a screenwriter. That’s my long-term goal.

Now how will I get there? What do I have to do until then to make it?

Save money. I set a savings goal.

Sell a script. I need credentials to make it.

Write. Write. Write. I don’t only need one script, but several, polished ready to sell scripts. Timing is everything. I have to judge it correctly. You have to be able to understand where you’re at, what you’ll be against and how you’ll get there. Too early may cost you. Too late and well…it’s too late.

I have daily goals: Write. I have monthly goals: To save money and build my platform. I have yearly goals: Sell a spec.

My point being…

We can’t just live for the weekends. We have to live for next year. And the year after. The possibilities of the future — just like a politician.

Where do you see yourself in two years? How will you get there?

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH

A Lesson from a Fortune Cookie

I love Chinese food. It’s the best.

After a big order of General Tso’s Chicken, I immediately went for my fortune cookie. I’m not a superstitious kind of guy. I realize most of these fortunes are standard. But this one, I felt different about. I felt like this fortune was for me.

“You deserve to have a good time after a hard day’s work”

It wasn’t really a fortune, it didn’t tell me my “future”, but instead reminded me of something I had forgotten.

Sometimes I forget to have fun.  It’s easy to do when you’re working hard. I take life too seriously — I have to. What other options do I have? I have work to get done. Things to do. People to see and people to please. This is the only way I can succeed. I’m willing to put it all out there. I’m sure you can relate.

But we have to remember to reward ourselves. We have to remember to kick back, relax, do what we enjoy doing the most.

There are so many things I enjoy doing. But over the last two years, those things have taken a back seat to writing. Rightfully so.

I tried to make a day in which I did something recreational. That was last summer. It didn’t work. Some how I get leashed into other obligations. I make promises, I say things I shouldn’t say and before i know it, all that “free” time is out the window.

I’m young. I don’t have kids. In retrospect, I’m busy, but it could be worse. I could have more responsibility…a lot more. But right now, I’m calling the shots. I need to take advantage of that.

Just like writing — I need to make the time. It’s not that I don’t have time, it’s that I don’t make the time.

I should crash on the couch. Or catch up on homework. No, no. I should pop in a movie I’ve been telling myself to watch. Or grab fishing pole and catch the Steelhead run.

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy writing. But writing is a job. I still write with passion and I’m more productive than ever. But it’s life that inspires writing and writers need to remember to live.

And that’s the lesson today. Work hard. Do what you got to do.

And then relax. Do something you enjoy.

Make a list of things you enjoy doing. Make them happen. You won’t regret it.

Let it be about you. Then help others.

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH

Trust your instinct and listen to your gut.

I recently reached the 20-page mark in my latest feature and I already feel it.

I feel love for this story. I know where it’s going. It plays out in my head before I fall asleep at night. This script will be special.

It may not sell and win an academy award, but I know this will be one of my finest pieces of writing.

How do I know?

Because I just do.

I didn’t feel like that with my last two scripts. There was no love there. I finished them both. Two drafts a piece and now they collect dust in my cabinet. I know I give up easy, but I’ve learned you have to move on from a project when it’s not working. I always finish my scripts and always try to get the best out of the story. With the last two, I did that. But they still sucked.

But this one came out of nowhere.

A simple log line I wrote some 2 years ago, suddenly overcame me. Scenes ran through my head. The theme was so apparent I knew what kind of story I had to write. It was all there in my head. I just had to put it on paper; that’s the tough part.

You’ll know when you got a good script. Of course the professional world may not think so, but at least you know this is where you’re at in your writing. I judge my work from my previous work. I know this script will be better than anything else I’ve ever written.

To me, that’s huge! I hope everyone who reads it feels the same way.

I love looking back at old scripts.  It’s a good practice. It reminds us how far we’ve come and that’s important. Take a couple of hours and go through your old work. You’ll cringe. You’ll laugh. You’ll be sick. And then you’ll want to become a better writer.

Trust your gut. Trust your instinct. It’s gotten you this far.

Feel that love?

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH